Field Report: Stardraw Radio

Stardraw Radio is a computer-aided design (CAD) program for designing radio studios. It is sold as a subscription service, with the cost covering a one-year subscription. The program contains a library of broadcast equipment from a variety of manufacturers. Monthly updates to the program and the library are included with the subscription. A new feature is added to the program each month.

The stated computer requirements are fairly modest: Pentium processor, 16MB RAM, 25MB hard drive for program storage plus 150MB for symbol library. It runs on Windows 98 SE, ME, 2000 or XP. While the program will work adequately with the minimum requirements, a faster processor and more RAM will improve performance. I tested the program on a 1.9GHz Pentium IV with 512MB RAM running Windows 2000. The program is OLE compliant.

While Stardraw is new to radio, the company has published similar applications since 1994. Using the same CAD engine, it has released applications for stage and lighting, audio and audio-visual design. Each application is customized for its particular field with appropriate libraries.

Getting started

Installation of the program is what we have come to expect from Windows programs. Insert the CD and if the computer is auto-run enabled, answer all the pertinent questions. The first time the program runs, the user is prompted to go online to receive the latest updates of the program and its libraries.

Performance at a glance
Easy learning curve
Extensive and growing libraries
Powerful report generation
Detailed rack drawings
Export capability to other CAD programs

Users with any previous experience with CAD programs or Visio will find that the Stardraw screen looks familiar. In fact, with only a few quick references to the manual, the user can begin drawing a block diagram of his dream radio station. However, I recommend taking the time to read through the manual while at the computer because Stardraw Radio has many features not found in other CAD programs.

The program guides the user through the entire design process for a radio station's studio facility. It begins by drawing a block diagram of the system. Select a component from the list on the left side of the screen, and drag it to the drawing area. All inputs and outputs, including power, are listed in the drawing, so once all the components are selected, wiring the system is a simple matter of connect the dots. The properties of each interconnect and component can be set as components are connected or after all the connections are made. Selecting the item and clicking on properties opens a window with the various parameters that can be entered. Information for components includes cost, selling price, weight, power consumption and installation time. For interconnects, the information includes the type of connection, label information (can be separate for each end) and where it connects at each end.

After the block diagram is finished and the information has been entered for all the items, the user now has the opportunity to place all the rack-mounted components in a rack or racks and arrange them. The information from the block diagram is ported to the rack layout module and the user now has the front panels of all of the components waiting for him to arrange them in a rack. Several rack manufacturers are included. Blank panels, vent panels and other specialized items can also be added. The rack can be viewed from the side or rear as well, to look at clearances and wiring access. The front and rear panels are detailed drawings, creating a realistic drawing of how the rack will look. Anything added during this step is also added to the materials list.

A variety of reports can be generated for a project.

Once the rack layout is complete, move on to the reports. Several reports are available, but the user must have Microsoft Excel installed on his computer to use this feature. These reports can be used for further planning of the system (power requirements, for instance), establishing the costs of the project, ordering and installation.

While overall it is a useful product and fairly easy to use, I did find some shortcomings that may be corrected as the company comes out with further enhancements to the product. The list of manufacturer's libraries is rather extensive, but no major broadcast consoles are included in the libraries. Stardraw has announced that it will be adding libraries for Wheatstone, but they are not yet available. Some libraries are incomplete, such as the Mackie library, which does not include any of its audio mixers. While I understand that this may be partially the responsibility of the manufacturers, the program loses some versatility by not having them. Also, no commonly used broadcast audio processors are included.

While the program has provision for audio consoles in the block diagram, it does not have any means to show them in the drawings because the drawings are simply rack diagrams. Some inclusion of standardized studio furniture modules and a means of showing consoles in them would greatly extend the power of this program.

While Stardraw Radio is a powerful engineering tool, it is also a powerful sales tool. Drawings can be ported to AutoCad for inclusion in larger building drawings, but give a customer or manager a good idea of how things will look when finished. The reports make it easy to come up with cost figures for the project, and minimize the possibility of omitting a key element that may cost money in the future.

While this may be a useful tool for contract engineers and system integrators, most individual radio stations would not be able to afford this program.

Carter is chief engineer of WFMT-FM, Chicago.

P 212-672-1855
F 212-372-8798

Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.

These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.

It is the responsibility of Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.

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